Okay, guys, here it is: The last chapter.
phoenix23: What hype?
"Why have you come?"
Legolas looked up at the trees and lifted a brow, releasing his horse to wander to grazing land. "Argile did not arrive as was agreed upon by your mother and my father. As you kept her pledge, we worried something had befallen you."
"The pledge is complete… besides, what could possibly have befallen me, after what I went through and survived in the last years?"
He smiled slightly and shrugged, even as he stepped into the large flet. The roof was once again rolled off to one side, several lighter patches indicating new repairs among the old leaves. "I did not ever say my father always makes sense."
"Then it was the royal 'we'?"
"Wouldn't that still include me?" he asked softly, tilting his head to better find her.
"I suppose so. I am fine, Legolas."
"So I hear," he agreed. "Your friends have already welcomed me back. The pups are a bit… rambunctious."
"Yes," she agreed, her voice quiet.
He followed that voice up to her mother's flet. He stepped inside without so much as a pretense at knocking, and found her sprawled on the floor, her mother's letters spread out before her. "Learning of your history?" he murmured softly, sitting beside her.
"Yes. She told him of my father."
"As he told her of my mother," he agreed. At her startled look, he shrugged. "I wanted to know what I didn't feel I could just ask."
Nenya lowered her eyes to the faded pages before her. "Do you know why…"
"Why she wasn't the queen?" He shook his head. "I've wondered about that for a while, now, and I've come up without an answer." He smiled sheepishly and tucked a bit of dark hair behind one of her finely pointed ears. "Have you an idea?"
"Not an idea. I know."
He blinked and straightened. "You know? How can you know?"
"Because I knew my mother," she answered at last, getting up. "She came here because the wood called to the part of all elves so easily tied to their homes. She came from the west, but found her home here, deep in the forest, even as it became Mirkwood. She could not have survived as the Queen, Legolas. She had to be out here, with living plants, the stars above her and green below her. She had to be able to watch the storms, to see the cycles of life around her… That was who she was. The palace would have been poor consolation for her, no matter how she loved Thranduil when they were young." She took a deep breath and tightened her arms around her middle, warding off the chill of her words. "He knew she wouldn't last there, just as she did. Despite their upcoming split, she allowed herself to become pregnant… she intended their child to be their consolation, but then the binding with the spider happened, and the child became their curse, their secret. She called him the death of her salvation, for she knew she would never go to the Undying Lands."
She shook her head. "He married even as she was pregnant, before they knew how the child would be, because he had to have a Queen, had to have an elf who could produce heirs to the throne, heirs the wood would bow to."
She stopped him again by turning around, fastening her bleak black eyes on him. "Did he ever love her? Did he ever love your mother? My mother never loved my father, did he love her? What a tangled mess they made of their lives… and ours." She lifted her hand to her face, covering it, hiding her eyes from his gaze. "She bore me so she had a way to keep her pledge to Thranduil, raised me so I would help secure the kingdom that she should have helped rule. All that… just because she loved him."
Not having missed the slight tremor in her hand or voice, Legolas got to his feet behind her, and cautiously wrapped his arms around her. "She loved him, and you."
"Did she? Or was I just a convenient way to make up for Teraien?"
"Why ask me? You know the answer. You've always known the answer." He shifted his weight, rocking her gently as he placed a kiss on her temple.
"Yes," she sighed softly, relaxing into his embrace for a long moment. Then she straightened and began to move away. "But although I think it was a—"
He laid a finger over her lips, and slowly shook his head. "My turn."
"You kept me from saying anything for long enough. Now you get to be quiet and listen as I tell you something I don't think you realize." He waited until her wide eyes watched him solemnly. "If they had wanted to be together, truly had desired nothing more from life than to remain united, they would have. My father was not the only one who could have taken the throne, no were there no others who could have relieved him, had he wished them to. He could have given up the throne as easily as he could have moved into the wood, had he wished to be close to her. There is no reason he had to live in the mountain, even if it is more defendable." Legolas paused and kissed her forehead. "Now, with that said, I think I should add just one thing."
"What?" she whispered when he remained silent for a long moment.
"I no longer live in the mountain."
She pulled back. "What?"
He shrugged slightly. "I knew from the first visit here that I would never be content living the rest of my life in the mountain. This was better, and not just because of the freedom, or because of you. My mother was a wood-elf, and this is home. Father had a series of flets constructed for me while I was here with you, using a design remarkably similar to that your mother used creating this place. It's not far from the mountain, of course, only a few minutes run from the gate."
"But you're the prince," she frowned at him severely, confusion wrinkling the skin between her brows even as she fought not to scowl.
"So I am," he agreed cheerfully. "Doesn't mean I have to live in the palace."
When she failed to come up with anything after a reasonable time, he grinned, reaching out to cup her cheek with his palm. "Now then, what was it you were saying?"
"Hmm? Oh—just that I knew she couldn't live in the mountain any more than I could… no matter how much she loved Thranduil."
"Or how much you love me?" he added softly when she didn't. "You know Father doesn't object to you, and having been told the truth, the Wood views you as a hero… Miranol and Oleydya wish you back for their binding ceremony… Nya? Do you need to know anything else, need any more time before you know your decision?"
Not when he did that, she didn't. His eyes were so full of love and light… Not to mention his breath fanning over her cheek and shivering up to her ear, caressing the tip and sending shivers down her spine as those annoying little sparks began to dance and gather again. "You know," she murmured softly, holding up his pendant with one hand as she wrapped the other around his neck. "You talk too much."
"Hmm," he agreed, his eyes flashing delightedly as he lowered his head a fraction more, putting him at perfect kissing distance. "You may be right," he agreed softly, kissing her languishingly. By the time he lifted his head, the pendant was hanging around her neck, dipping down into the tunic she was wearing. He kissed his way down the chain, and nipped at her throat before lifting his head so his teeth hovered tauntingly over her ear's tip. "The Wood may need a while to get used to seeing a princess dressed as a male," he stated with a quiet chuckle before nibbling her ear. "Maybe this was meant to happen," he murmured distractedly.
"Hmm?" she asked, trying to focus on his words while also trying to capture all the sensations buffeting her at every instant.
"Well, if my mother and your father had been together as King and Queen, Teraien would have been the only one of us born—if he was even born, considering how unlikely it seems your mother would have been happy in the palace. The spiders would have overrun the wood because Teraien… no, wait… Teraien wouldn't have had any control over them, would he?"
"Legolas," she murmured sweetly, resting her cheek against his.
"Didn't I just tell you that you talk too much?"
His soft chuckle was cut off by her sudden shriek as he swept her off her feet, spinning her around until they knelt on the floor of the flet, unmindful of the papers around them that documented a life-long love that had culminated only in secrets and pain until the two young elves now joined over them had found their own way, despite the past that had tried to bind them.
They were together, despite it all.
Even as the elves of Mirkwood left those shores and went into the west, the story of the Spider-Witch was revived, though no two elves ever knew the entire true story.
If you want to read the inspiration for this story, it's the one-shot in Nea's collection (entitled 'A Moment in Immortal Time') called Goodbye. I believe it's the fifth chapter, and you can get there either by my fav authors (she's the only one, her full name is Nea's World), or by my favorite stories. The collection is in there.
And of course, a HUGE thank you to her--I've finally got it all posted, and she can stop stressing out about hoe to politely tell me what I'm trying to say hasn't made it anywhere near the page.